Please Stop Whining: Time For Tough Love

I’m going to be really honest here: I have no time for whiners. One of the common situations on My 600 lbs Life is the patient crying over their “helpless” lifestyle or whining about how Dr. Nowzaradan ‘doesn’t understand [my] situation.’ Neither evokes any sympathy from me. It’s not that I’m heartless or that I don’t understand. Having been 438+ lbs with arthritis in both knees, lower back issues and some other health problems, yes, I understand feeling utterly helpless and alone in the face of problems which you created. Having also been told by an arrogant bariatric surgeon that I have plenty of time to exercise, yes, I walked out that b*stard’s office and never returned. I assure you: I know what it feels like to be alone, misunderstood, overwhelmed and helpless.

However, those feelings of helplessness and being utterly alone are the problem; they are not the solution! After I left that jerk of a bariatric surgeon’s office, even though I never went back to see him, that doesn’t mean that I stopped looking for a solution for my obesity.  It just means I found something else! Unfortunately, too many of us hit roadblocks and obstacles that might at first glance seem insurmountable (or even take a few tries to get over them) and we give up instead of trying to get over them or find a way around them.

For me, the idea of exercising at 438+ was just a stupid idea.  For starters, my schedule would have me exercising at 5:00 a.m. or earlier or 8:00 p.m. or later, and at a time in my life when falling asleep on my daily commute was a very real danger, that was an idiotic idea, even without the pain from using a treadmill, which is what I would have tried doing.  “Hmm, let’s take more time away from sleeping and cram in some painful exercise, so I can be in more pain and more exhausted when I get in the car to drive for two hours!” Can we say “not a good idea?” Don’t get me wrong: exercise is a great thing and when you are getting enough sleep and you aren’t hurting yourself, it can really add to your energy level and helps with mental clarity as well.  But the caveats are there: you need to be healthy enough to exercise otherwise you are just adding stress and damage to your body! That’s what the doofus of a bariatric surgeon wasn’t understanding: after meeting with me for fifteen minutes max, he felt he knew me and my lifestyle well enough to pronounce that I had plenty of time to exercise!

I realize that in a lot of ways, I am sounding exactly like Dr. Now’s whiny patients! “He doesn’t understand my situation!” Truthfully, maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but the bottom line is instead of trying to help me find any kind of solution, he made a blanket proclamation and that was the end of it. Dr. Nowzaradan will send a physical therapist or offer some kind of assistance to help his patients move forward. He also does a more comprehensive physical exam than the jerk I saw, who didn’t know that I had arthritis in both knees because I didn’t know I had arthritis in both knees and he didn’t even do an x-ray to find out!

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of being helpless and misunderstood, and then we compound the problem by continuing to justify how helpless we are and how no one understands us. It makes us feel vindicated in someway.  What we don’t realize is that when we do that, we are essentially walling ourselves up in our excuses and reasons why we can’t get over whatever obstacle is in our way.  It reminds me of a scene from an old little-known movie that I loved when I was kid: Support Your Local Sheriff with James Garner, Walter Brennan and Bruce Dern. It was a comedy-western in which James Garner falls into the job of sheriff at a boomtown which is so new that the jail has no bars on the cells.  Bruce Dern, the son of local bully Walter Brennan who runs the town, is arrested and thrown in the barless jail and tricked into staying there until the bars are installed on the walls and windows.  When his dad and brothers try pulling out the bars on the window, Dern tells him that it won’t work- the bars are too well set into the cement, and when they comically fall off their horses, Dern tells them “I told you so!” Brennan snaps that how would a nitwit like him know the bars are set in so good, and Dern smugly tells him “Because I helped put them in!” The joke is that Bruce Dern’s character literally imprisoned himself in that jail, but all he sees is that he was right and his dad was wrong.

We do this when we justify why we can’t exercise or why we can’t lose weight or why no one can help us. When we give up and cry, we are keeping ourselves locked in a jail of our own making. We don’t look for a way out or a way around the obstacle because we are so busy finding reasons why we can’t!  We have tunnel vision so all we see is what is in our way rather than looking for any kind of solution. It’s easy to sit here and spout platitudes like “don’t be part of the problem- be part of the solution!” Seriously, platitudes bug me because we hear them all the time and they’ve become part of the background noise that we filter out.  For instance, the idiot surgeon I met with told me “nothing tastes as good as thin feels!” Yeah, except I don’t know how ‘thin feels’ so that little gem means nothing to me! I can sit here and tell you all to ‘be part of the solution!’ but unless you know how to look for that solution or even what a possible solution might be, I might as well tell you to pick up a few snipes while you’re out looking for that solution!

The point is that when we feel the urge to sit and cry or justify why we can’t do whatever, this is where we need to remind ourselves to change our focus.  Instead of telling people “I’ve got arthritis in both knees, a pin in one, screws in one wrist and bone spurs and degenerative disc disease in my back so I can’t exercise!,” find an exercise or some kind of activity that you can do!  In my case, using a treadmill will only aggravate those problems for me, but using a pool doesn’t, so I use the pool. I’ve got a rotator cuff that bothers me when I do certain exercises in the pool, so I modify those exercises when we do them in class.  I don’t not do them: I find a way around the obstacle!  It takes a little practice to remind yourself to stop the whining and justifications and find the way over or around the problem. Honestly, it’s even okay if you want to have a little tantrum/ pity party for a few moments before you go looking for your solution (I’ve been known to have some real beauts!)  Ultimately, it’s all your own choice: you can find a way out of that jail you made for yourself, or you can help put the bars in!

Planning to Fail: Making It Harder Than It Has to Be

We have all failed at weight loss at least once.  If you’re like me, you’ve been failing at it all your life! For most of us, obviously, this is unplanned but oddly enough, there are some people who plan to fail.

Most of us who go into the weight loss arena seriously want to succeed; we want to be slimmer, more fit, less tired and just generally look and feel better.  We unwittingly sabotage ourselves by creating plans and menus that just make it harder than it needs to be.  If you’re like me, you’re in a hurry to reach your goal weight so everyone, outta my way! It’s in our rush to “do everything! and do it now!” that we pile on too many changes, drastically re-structure our eating plans and overschedule ourselves with exercise.  We’ve made it harder than it needs to be by trying to go from zero to 150 in ten seconds or less!  Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) likens this to pulling onto the freeway, gunning your car’s engine with the parking brake on.  It’s a good analogy: we want to go as fast as we can but with the parking brake on, all we are doing is burning out our engine and increasing our frustration.  We get easily discouraged because “we’re doing everything right and not getting anywhere!” This is where most of us throw up our hands and resign ourselves either to being fat or to finding something else.

The ‘finding something else’ may not be the wrong idea, if the ‘do everything now’ method has been your strategy.  You probably have a good sound plan for weight loss; it’s the execution/ implementation that’s the problem.  We usually plan to give up things like sugar, ’empty carbs’ (chips, potatoes, etc) and we plan to drink more water and do more exercise or activity.  Those are all great plans (especially if you include more sleep and stress management) but trying to do all of them at once? That hotel website commercial pops in my head- the one with the guy trying to put on his belt, drink his coffee, shave and read the paper all at once. No one tries to do all those things at once- duhhhh! We can’t! Our hands are full! But when it comes to weight loss, eating better and making other positive changes, we don’t realize that our metaphorical hands are full…. until we start dropping things! Such as missing our workout class/ appointment, giving in to the break room cookies and ‘forgetting’ our healthy lunch so we end up eating out the rest of the crew- again!  We don’t realize it, but we are making this harder than it needs to be. We just hamstrung ourselves and didn’t even know it.

Using the analogy of the guy trying to do everything at once, the answer is obviously we do things one or two at a time.  Hello! Makes sense, right? Brush your teeth then drink your coffee or vice versa but not at the same time! We reject this idea because it… takes … too… long! We don’t want to wait- really who does? But the fact is that we built our bad habits and our extra pounds over time, usually a lifetime, and those habits and pounds take time to come off.  It’s not like we spent a week eating pasta three times a day and dessert seven days a week and then the following week we woke up with an extra twenty or thirty pounds on our butts and bellies! These habits changed little by little over the years and the extra pounds snuck up on us the same way.  The bad news is that now they’re firmly entrenched into our lifestyle and our butts.  The good news is that we can evict them, but like any eviction, it takes some time.  The first good habit we need to learn is patience. If we are as consistent and steady with our new good habits as we were with our old bad ones, we will be successful at weight loss.

This means doing things one at a time: we make one change, do it consistently and when it becomes a habit (as in we do it without really thinking about it), we make another change.  Here’s an example from last night: for the last two years, I’ve been going to water aerobics classes Mondays and Wednesdays.  The only time I haven’t made it to the classes is when the gym is closed or I work late. The biggest changes for me involved in this were #1) remembering my gym bag; and #2) remembering to go to the gym!  I set reminders on my phone to help with both of these.  The danger for me was that I would find a way to talk myself out of going to class: it’s a hassle; it’s cold; I don’t feel good; blah blah blah.  I made myself go anyway and it got easier after I made friends in the class.  Yesterday on my way to the gym, I was tired; it’d been really stressful at work lately; it was cold and rainy; and I realized I was talking myself out of going to class.  I was making excuses and justifications for not going and why it was okay to skip it. In fact, I had ‘decided’ I wasn’t going to go but because it had become a firmly entrenched habit, I found myself pulling into the gym parking lot.  Even though my ‘higher brain’ was arguing with me, my ‘autopilot brain’ drove to the gym anyway: it’s Wednesday so it’s gym night!  Oh, well! I’m here so I might as well work out!

By taking my time doing the same actions over and over, I made a habit of going to the gym and unless I consciously think about stopping myself, I do it anyway. This is how we learn to take our healthy lunch, not put sugar in our coffee, and go to bed at a reasonable hour.  I seriously set reminders on my phone (Alarmed app by Yoctoville-it’s free at iTunes!) and they helped a lot: reminders for packing the gym bag, going to the gym, making my breakfast and lunch, etc.

As for those of us who seriously plan to fail, there’s an entirely different psychology at work there.  These are the people who deliberately set themselves up for failure so they can say “I tried but I can’t do it!” and that’s their excuse for never trying again.  They ‘try to exercise’ but will try something they are reasonably certain is beyond their capabilities without being too outlandish, such as me at 430 lbs trying to run a 5k- just plain crazy! But if I tried something like doing an hour on the treadmill, that’s not crazy but at the same time, I’m pretty certain I would have been in a fair amount of pain afterwards because the impact on the treadmill aggravated the arthritis in my knees.  After 20 minutes, my knees were killing me.  If I had been setting up an excuse as to why I can’t exercise, this would have been good enough for me.  I’d already lost 40 lbs and should have been able to do this, but it hurts too much to exercise! I tried and I can’t do it! This would have been my opportunity to ‘get out of exercising’ because ‘my body can’t handle it!’ Instead, what I did was go to my doctor and ask her why my knees were hurting, which is how I ended up in the pool.  I went looking for an explanation and an alternative instead of choosing the excuse.  For the people who want permission to fail, looking for answers is kryptonite.  They don’t want help. They don’t want to succeed. They want to fail, either because it makes them more helpless and pitiable so they either get more attention and/ or sympathy or they don’t have any responsibility for anything in their lives. They can be overweight and helpless with impunity: they’ve tried to help themselves and they can’t do it.

Obviously some of us have flirted with the edges of this: I ‘tried’ to open this jar and I can’t: “hon, can you get this for me?” I ‘tried’ to prune the rosebushes and they look awful now: “look what happens when you let me do! I can’t do it as well as you!” This isn’t the same thing as those who are looking for excuses and justifications not to change.  Change is hard and uncomfortable and it’s a lot of work.  Positive changes are worth the effort.  We just need to remind ourselves that we are also worth the effort when our brains think of reasons to fail.








Portion Distortion: The Weight Loss Landmine

We’ve all heard about portion distortion when it comes to weight loss.  We go out to eat and look at the food on our plate and even though we know “this is more than one serving,” we usually don’t know how many servings are really there in front of us.  But it’s not just restaurants that do it to us: almost everything we buy has bigger than normal servings now.

At the risk of sounding like my grandma, when I was a kid, we’d buy frozen bagels at the grocery store (fresh bagels weren’t in stores or even bakeries).  The bagel was about the size of an English muffin, maybe a little thicker. Now, a bagel is literally twice the size of those frozen 1970’s bagels! One half of today’s bagel is the size of one of those frozen Lender’s bagels I got as a kid.  When you read the nutrition label on most of these, one serving is half a bagel!

The problem is that most of us don’t really pay attention to the serving size: one bagel = one serving, right? That makes sense, doesn’t it? It does, but that’s not what we’re getting.  Recently, standing in line at the grocery store, I looked at the wrapper on a King Size Payday bar: 150 calories a serving.  Logically, since it was a King Size bar, I thought there were two servings in this bar, but nope! It’s three!  It’s not 300 calories I was holding in my hand; it was 450!

Most of us really hate having to weigh and measure what we eat.  It’s one of the reasons so many of us give up on weight loss (it’s a major hassle) or we’re frustrated because our diet ‘isn’t working’ (because we aren’t weighing/ measuring). We also get lazy when it comes to reading the labels on packaging (another hassle!)  It’s bad enough to read them for calories or fat/ carb content, but then we buy the small package of cottage cheese and assume it’s one serving because it’s so small! But once we look at the amount per serving and number of servings per package, we realize that we just ate two servings of cottage cheese: really?! a half cup is a single serving?! it’s such a small amount!!

It is small to us now, but that’s part of the Portion Distortion landmine.  We know that what we are getting served either in a package or a restaurant is more than one serving: it’s pretty much common knowledge now.  What most of us don’t realize is how many servings there actually are in that package! (Think back to my Payday bar!) So while we acknowledge we’re walking in a mine field, we don’t know how many landmines are actually surrounding us! We think we know how much is a serving (it’s one cup of yogurt, right?) but our inner food scale has been miscalibrated by years of eating more than one serving at each sitting.  We eat the small container of cottage cheese or the whole bagel (or the whole package of M&Ms) and we think it’s one serving, because that’s what we’ve always eaten.  When we go out to restaurant and order a steak with fries and a salad with the salad dressing already on it, we think “okay, that’s more than a serving of steak and probably the fries too, but the salad is probably okay.” Depending on the size of the steak, it might be three servings (it’s 4 oz for steak) so it’s an 8 oz steak, it’s two, but if it’s a 12 oz steak (it’s a better bargain), that’s three.  As for the fries, it can easily be three servings depending on how generous the restaurant is (or if they have ‘bottomless’ fries!) As for the salad, again the serving size might be okay but what’s on it? Cheese? Croutons? Egg? and a serving of salad dressing is 2 tbs and most restaurants put closer to three or four.  FYI: that little cup of dressing for those of us who order it ‘on the side?’ Four!  The only advantage is that we can choose to use only half of it!

Somehow over the last forty-some years, the packages and portions have slowly increased and most of us have lazily gotten used to eating a whole package or close to it. I noticed it first with potato chips.  The ‘small’ bag kept getting bigger, and either we didn’t notice or we didn’t care.  The size of soft drink cups also increased and we kept right on ordering the ‘small’ even though it went from 8 oz to 12 to 16.  About ten years ago I went to the movies with my sister and a friend and we split an extra large soda between the three of us.  No problem because it was- no kidding- a bucket of soda! As in two quarts!!

Because we’re used to eating an entire package or restaurant ‘serving’ at one time, we are conditioned to think it’s okay.  There’s something a little off about saving half a package for later (it doesn’t stay fresh!) and bringing home leftovers from the restaurant is a hassle (the boxes leak!) and as for splitting a plate with a friend at the restaurant? (Please! That’s being cheap!) So rather than ‘be wasteful’ and leave food on the plate or throw it in the trash, we eat it all and feel stuffed…. until we get used to eating it all and then that oversized portion becomes the ‘normal amount.’  This is how one cup of cottage cheese has become a ‘serving’ and an 8 oz steak has become a ‘serving’ and the bagel the size of our face has become a ‘serving!’ Our bellies, our appetites, and- even worse- our perception have all become as distorted as the portions in front of us.

Going back to eating one normal-sized serving feels like we’re cheating ourselves since that ‘normal’ amount feels more like half of what is normally on our plate. It takes some time to adjust our perceptions, bellies and appetites again, but eventually, we get there.  We also don’t have to go from the 12 oz steak straight to the 4 oz either.  There’s no harm in going from 12 to 8 or 6- since it’s still progress! We also need to get used to the idea of either sharing what we’re eating (as in splitting a plate or a sandwich or wrap) or bringing something home. The same goes for only eating a serving and putting the rest in the fridge or pantry (that’s why they make baggies!) FYI: in a lot of places, the ‘child sized’ portion is still pretty close to normal! After years of ordering the ‘medium’ frozen yogurt (a pint!), the child size (4 oz) seemed paltry… until I was with a friend who ordered the medium and OMG! it’s huge! I’m fairly lucky in that I have pets, and I have no qualms with sharing my food with them, provided it’s safe for them.  I’ve also noticed that my pets have better food sense than I do: they don’t eat when they’re not hungry and one of my dogs will fight me for my salad and leave my frozen yogurt alone!

It’s a lot like getting new glasses: the first few days, it feels you’re walking on the rolling deck of a ship, and then one day, you wake up and it’s all normal again. Once we realize that we’ve been seeing isn’t what we think it is, it’s easier to recognize not only that we’re standing on a portion distortion landmine, but how big a bomb it really is!

Don’t Be Good- Be the Best! Weight Loss & ‘Settling’

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to losing weight and/ or getting fit: we settle for good enough.  As in, “the fried chicken really isn’t on my diet plan, but it’s better than the pasta! Ehh, good enough!”; “I did better today than yesterday!” even though we know that yesterday was ‘full of indulgences’ (code for: freakin’ terrible eating!)  We also do it when we go through the motions working out: “hey, I’m here instead of on the sofa!”  We’ve gotten used to the idea of not being perfect and focusing on progress.  Don’t get me wrong: holding out for perfection instead of progress is the second biggest pitfall in weight loss, but there comes a time when Good really isn’t good enough anymore.

It’s like when you learn any new skillset: we either keep improving or we stagnate.  Can you imagine playing Candy Crush and just staying on level four?  “Ehh, level four is better than three!” Imagine telling all of your fellow Candy Crushers that you’re on level four and that’s good enough for you- they’d look at you like you were nuts!  Isn’t getting better at the game the whole point of playing?

The reason this happens so much with weight loss is that- for a while- we lose weight just being good enough.  Being good enough is usually enough improvement that we drop a few pounds and we feel encouraged to keep ‘being good’ but eventually our body adapts and our weight loss hits a plateau.  Usually by that time, we are getting a little tired of being good. It’s that old vicious cycle again: we’ve stopped losing weight, so we’ve stopped being motivated to continue the healthy changes, and the longer we don’t lose weight, the less motivated we are to be better.  In other words, we’re content to stay on level four in Candy Crush!

When it comes to eating healthier and being more active, it really is improvement vs stagnation. If we don’t keep improving, we will level off and stay there- unless we backslide, which is always a danger!  This is what makes weight loss and being active so difficult for us: we have to keep improving if we want to make progress! And for most of us, even though we think we are improving (we’re sure trying!), we’ll still hit that dreaded plateau! It’s frustrating and it’s a pain in the butt and so we settle for being Good Enough by telling ourselves “at least I’m not eating as bad I used to eat!”

But that’s not the point! The point is being as healthy and as active as you want to be! If you can get there- and stay there- by being Good Enough, then congratulations! For most of us, Good Enough isn’t good enough though, and while we’re thrilled that we lost twenty pounds, those last ten pounds are still stuck on our butt! So, we’ve made progress, but we haven’t reached our goal and we’re frustrated and tired of ‘being good,’ especially since we aren’t making any more progress.  For many of us, the thought of having to do more, or rather give up more, is really adding insult to perceived injury. “I stopped eating cookies and chips, lost 20 lbs and now I have to give up fruit/ bread/ pasta?! Oh, hell no!”

We need to stop thinking in terms of Good Enough, as in just doing enough to make a little progress or stay at ‘level four.’  We need to focus on doing our best every day rather than looking down at the finish line at our goal.  Many times our goal is so far away we are tempted to procrastinate, as in “it’s only January. I don’t need to lose weight until Mary’s wedding in June, so I’ve still got time. I can eat these brownies tonight and worry about my diet tomorrow.” Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) calls this Good-Better-Best Thinking.  When we’re faced with choices, either in food or activity, don’t settle for what’s good: formulate a better choice and your best choice, and if your best choice isn’t an option, then ‘settle’ for the better choice instead of just picking the good one. Example: you’re out with friends and the restaurant where you planned on having lunch is too crowded, so your friends opt for a pizza place instead. You had planned on having something healthy at the other place, and now you’re stuck looking at a menu full of pasta, chicken wings, pizza and giant hoagies. So, what’s a good choice? How about having one slice of pizza or just the toppings? What’s a better choice? Maybe having the unbreaded chicken wings and celery? What’s the best choice? Maybe it’s a salad or maybe it’s skipping lunch? Whatever your options are, when you start thinking in terms of good-better-best, it becomes a habit and even if you do choose to settle for good, you are acknowledging that’s what you’re doing. You don’t always have to choose the best, but by formulating your choices, you are paying attention to your actions. For most of us, when we realize we are choosing ‘good enough’ day after day (especially if you are keeping track), it soon becomes apparent why you aren’t making progress towards your goals.

We don’t always have to be The Best or spiral into depression because we ‘blew the day.’ There’s nothing wrong with aiming for perfection or the best choices all the time, but we need to acknowledge that sometimes Perfect or The Best isn’t an option. It also means we shouldn’t settle for Good Enough every time either.  The point is, if The Best isn’t an option, aim for something in the middle ground. Aim for Better before settling for Good. You’ll not only make progress with your goals, you’ll likely get off level four too!

Naysayers, Beware! Dodging Negativity in Weight Loss

One of my favorite songs is “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, partly because it’s just a fun song, but also because it reminds me and the rest of us that we are the ones who most often get in our own way.  We make plans and resolutions but when it comes time to put our money where our mouth is, we bail.  Seriously, we chicken out- it’s too hard; those cupcakes look so good; I forgot, blah, blah, blah! End result: we’ll do better tomorrow… until it’s tomorrow!! Second verse, same as the first! Eventually, we give up: this is just too hard; I’m destined to be fat; obesity is in my genes; excuse, excuse!

Most of this is negative attitude and it’s compounded by poor planning.  The negative attitude comes from always looking at ‘what’s hard.’  As with all our other good intentions, we trade what we want in the future for what we want now.  As in: losing twenty pounds by summertime vs those red velvet cupcakes at the party.  For most of us, it begins with bargaining (I’ll just have two bites of the cupcake; oops! make that three bites of the cupcake; umm, half??; one cupcake isn’t too bad) and from there, we fall victim to the negativity.  We dump on ourselves for eating a cupcake: We’ve ruined the day! Why do we always give in? Why can’t I be stronger/ stay focused? I’m never going to lose this twenty pounds, so I might as well east all the dang cupcakes I want!

This negative “I can’t do this” attitude is the biggest obstacle for most of us and not only in weight loss.  We’ve heard all the little aphorisms: “get out of your own way”; “be part of the solution, not part of the problem”; “your actions follow your attitude,” etc.  Those are all true but do we know what they mean and how to make them work for us? Not really! The one that really works for me is the problem-solution point of view.  Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) gave a great illustration of that one in a recent podcast: your car is stuck in the snow and no matter how you gun the engine, the wheels just spin and you go nowhere. So your choices are sitting there, focusing on how you’re stuck in the snow, or you can get out of the car and try to do something about it! As an aside, “Kitty litter!” immediately popped into my head. Sprinkling clay kitty litter around your back wheels provides traction in snow and mud situations.  Silly as this sounds (I’ve heard it really works!), this is part of that problem-solution mindset. I automatically thought of how to get out of this situation instead of “dang-it, I’m stuck!”  This is what most of us would do in that situation, but when it comes to other non-stuck in the snow situations, we tend to focus on the problem instead. Our actions really do follow our attitude: we’re so focused on whatever our problem is, we do nothing instead of taking any action at all!

Example: we’re at a working lunch and the office has provided sandwiches, salads and cookies.  All of the salads are either pasta based or potato and all of the sandwiches are on thick rolls and there’s only cookies, although they brought soda, diet soda and water to drink.  There’s really nothing ‘healthy’ or on your diet for you to eat. This is where most of us ‘do what we can,’ pick a sandwich, ignore the salads, choose water or diet soda and well, maybe one cookie, since we’ve already had the sandwich! We are focused on the problem: nothing healthy to eat. One option is to choose a sandwich and eat it (leave the other stuff alone); another option is to take the bread off the sandwich and just eat whatever meat, cheese and veggies are there; and a third option is to skip lunch. If anyone asks, “I’ll get something later/ I’m not hungry.” Recently, my boss chose option 3: he was at a deposition that ran through lunch and nothing they brought in looked good to him, so he stopped afterwards at one of his usual places and brought lunch back to our office. It wasn’t a big deal (he’s definitely not overweight either!) Just because food is provided doesn’t mean you have to eat it!

This also happens a lot in our home life: we get delayed or our schedule gets rearranged courtesy of someone or something else and suddenly we’re running way later than we planned and we’ve got nothing at home for dinner: “Oh well! I guess we’re getting Chinese/ pizza/ burgers!” That’s focusing on the problem, not looking for a better solution.  How long does it take to stop for takeout? About fifteen- twenty minutes? How about stopping at a grocery store instead? In the same time it takes to get a pizza or Chinese, you can stop at grocery store, grab a bag of salad and a rotisserie chicken for dinner. A lot of times when we focus on the problem, we’re really looking for an excuse to give in. We really want Chinese or pizza or fast food, so by focusing on the problem (“I don’t have time to make dinner”) we are giving ourselves permission to eat what we really want (think back to those red velvet cupcakes up above). We are getting in our own way by choosing excuses over our goals, and this is where the poor planning compounds our problems.

I’ll be honest: I hate meal planning and I really hate grocery shopping! Both of those take up a lot of time, making up a list of what I need, driving down to the store, going through the aisles, standing in line, getting everything home and put away. It may be a huge pain in the butt every week, but it’s also a strategy for success.  This is how we get out of our own way! You don’t have to spend your weekend cooking four or five chickens or gallons of soup, stew or chili or anything like that, although a lot of people do. They freeze or store all this food for later in the week or month when they’re running late.  Rather than stop on the way home for take out or whatever else, they pull something out of the freezer.  It’s called “batch cooking,” and it’s always an option if you have the time. There are a lot of people who will choose one or two days a month and make large amounts for just these situations, or to take with them for lunches- whatever they choose! It works for them to have one ‘inconvenient’ day to have convenience most of the time.

Myself, I just do the weekly grocery shopping. My ‘meal planning’ is limited to making my shopping list: I just ask myself what I want to eat this week and what do I need more of for the weekends. I like to make breakfast at home on weekends, so a dozen eggs will last me at least a month.  (They also work for back up dinner if I’m running late or just feeling lazy.) While batch cooking is too much for me, usually if I am grilling ribs in the oven or whatever it is I’m making, I make enough for two or more days, since I’ll probably have the same thing the next day.  I know I’m having it later in the week! That way, all I have to do the next day is warm it up. I do this a lot on work-out days, since I know I’ll be getting home a little later and dinner is in the fridge waiting to be heated up.

Most of what I have for dinner isn’t complicated anyway.  This is how I get out of my way. I really don’t like cooking anything complex so it’s usually salads, veggies I can steam or saute and meats or proteins that I can grill, fry or roast which are easily reheated.  Seriously, this is where most people allow negativity and the “I can’t do this” mentality to get in their way: they think ‘eating healthy’ is complicated.  I know all those experts and celebrity chefs are trying to help by putting out cookbooks that make eating healthy look delicious, but they also make it look complicated! More than five ingredients and I totally balk at the recipe! (And five is pushing it!)

It takes a little practice to learn not to focus on the problem, but when you find yourself thinking something along the lines of “this is too hard,” or “this isn’t going to work for me,” take a breath and ask yourself “What can I do? How can I find a way around this?” The same thing applies when you’re going grocery shopping: planning what you’re eating for the week doesn’t have to involve a variety of mushrooms, duck fat and arrowroot flour!It can be something as simple as omelettes, roasted chicken or green salads! Eat what you like that you can easily- the only requirement is that it be healthy for you! Also, things like nuts, canned tuna/ fish or jerky are also handy for when you decide to say no to the office lunch. I keep some of these at my desk as well as in my pantry.

So when you find yourself spinning your wheels, remember the kitty litter! You can sit shivering in the snow or you can get out of the car and do something!